Federal Aid in Sport Fish Restoration To Florida
The Federal Aid in Sport Fish Restoration (SFR) program is one federal program that really lives up to its name. For more than half a century, it has been one of the best “user-pays, user-benefits” initiatives anywhere. The Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission (FWC) has received more than $11 million each year from these matching funds to sustain and enhance public fishing opportunities that return a $7.5 billion economic benefit to the state each year and provide 46 million days of recreational enjoyment.
In 1950, Congressmen Dingell and Johnson created the original program in response to a request from the fishing industry and angling public. Under this program, fishing tackle is assessed an excise fee at the manufacturers’ level, and resulting funds are allocated to state game and fish agencies.
The original Dingell-Johnson Act was expanded in 1984, through the Wallop-Breaux Amendment, to include import duties on sport fishing equipment, pleasure boats and yachts, as well as tax revenue from motorboat fuel sales. The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service determines how much of these taxes are returned to each state, based on its size and the number of paid fishing license holders. Since Florida, unlike many other states, does not charge saltwater fishing license fees to resident shoreline anglers, nor require any youth under 16, or resident adult over 65 to purchase a freshwater or saltwater license, we recover a somewhat smaller proportion of the funds than some other states do.
SFR generated $13.3 million for Florida in 2008, of which 15 percent ($2 million) provided for both fresh and saltwater boating access, including building and maintaining boat ramps, courtesy docks and trailer parking. Of the remaining $11.3 million, freshwater fisheries conservation received $5.3 million (based on the estimated number of resident freshwater anglers versus saltwater anglers), and saltwater attained $6 million.
Florida freshwater fisheries’ SFR funding is used primarily to support the many programs that ensure Florida remains the Fishing Capital of the World. This includes evaluating key fisheries to determine the appropriate regulations, fish stocking, habitat enhancement, aquatic plant management and infrastructure needs (e.g., boat ramps, fishing piers, fish attractors). The funds also support applied research, hatchery operations, outreach activities for youth, and communications programs to keep the angling public informed.
The fishing tackle and boating industries pay these taxes up front and then pass the cost on to anglers and boaters. Each recreationist pays a minor share. However, the accumulated impact is one of the strongest forces helping ensure there will be fishing and boating access in the future, that aquatic habitats are protected and restored, and that our waters contain healthy and abundant sport fishes to sustain quality recreational fishing.
In turn, sport fishing not only provides millions of hours of healthy, relaxing enjoyment for anglers and boaters, it also provides a tremendous economic benefit to local communities and businesses. The angling public and fishing industry together serve as watchdogs to ensure that the user who pays into the system directly benefits.
“Put, Grow and Take” is an expression fisheries biologists use to describe stocking a small fish into a healthy environment, letting it grow and allowing it to be caught by an angler as a much-bigger fish. Sport Fish Restoration works the same way – with a little money going into the system, being returned and expanded to give the angler more than his or her money’s worth.
For additional information go to MyFWC.com/Fishing/, and click on the Sport Fish Restoration link. The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service’s WSFRprograms.FWS.gov Web site provides additional information.
Instant licenses are available at MyFWC.com/License or by calling 888-FISH-FLORIDA (347-4356). Report violators by calling *FWC or #FWC on your cell, or 888-404-3922. Visit MyFWC.com/Fishing/Updates for more Fish Busters’ columns.